No clear favorite in Big 12 men's basketball tournament

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 | 10:43 p.m. CDT; updated 9:27 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

No. 1 TEXAS 26-5 (13-3, Big 12)

Ranked sixth in the Associated Press poll, the Longhorns have shown they can beat top-tier teams with wins over UCLA, Tennessee and Kansas. Those three teams are currently raned in the top five in the AP poll and were in the top 10 when Texas beat them.

There are some surprising losses for the Longhorns’, though, most notably to Missouri and Texas Tech. Texas’ most glaring flaw is that it doesn’t have a deep bench. Only six players average over 10 minutes of playing time.

KEY PLAYER: D.J. Augustin — The sophomore guard was a unanimous selection to the All-Big 12 First Team. He scored 19.8 points and led the conference with 5.7 assists per game this year.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Damion James — Named to the All-Big 12 Second Team, James, a sophomore, scored 12.9 points and grabbed 10.7 rebounds per game. Last year he backed up Kevin Durant.

No. 2 KANSAS 28-3 (13-3)

All three losses came on the road for No. 5 Kansas and were by a combined 14 points. Balance is what makes the Jayhawks a top contender. No player averages more than 14 points a game, yet seven players are scoring more than seven per game.

In the past two seasons, Kansas has beaten Texas in the tournament’s championship game.

KEY PLAYER: Brandon Rush — He was selected to the All-Big 12 First Team and has the most potential of anybody on Kansas’ roster to go for a big game. When he is making his perimeter shots, the Jayhawks are even tougher to beat.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Sherron Collins — The sophomore is a spark plug when he enters the game off the bench. He was given the Big 12’s Sixth Man Award, and when he’s in the game, Kansas pushes the tempo even more.

No. 3 KANSAS STATE 20-10 (10-6)

Forget the Big 12. Freshman forward Michael Beasley is one of the best players in the country. He was named both the conference’s Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year after scoring 26.5 points and grabbing 12.5 rebounds per game. He leads the nation in rebounding and is third in points.

Freshman forward Bill Walker, selected to the All-Big 12 Third Team, has been a great second option, but the Wildcats have lacked support behind those two. A prime example is the Feb. 23 loss to Baylor when the duo combined for 75 of Kansas State’s 86 points.

KEY PLAYER: Beasley — While improved balance could help Kansas State win this tournament, Beasley could easily carry the Wildcats by himself.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Jacob Pullen — Also a freshman, Pullen has predominantly come off the bench in conference games, but had two of his bigger games in that role. He scored a season-best 20 points off the bench against Kansas and had 19 off the bench against Texas.

No. 4 OKLAHOMA 21-10 (9-7)

At the start of conference play, the Sooners were considered to be of a lower caliber than Baylor and Texas A&M but were able to win three of four games against those two teams.

Free throw shooting is the Sooners’ only glaring weakness. Oklahoma is 10th in the conference, shooting 68.4 percent from the foul line.

KEY PLAYER: Blake Griffin — Another fabulous freshman, Griffin was selected to the All-Big 12 First Team for scoring 15.2 points and grabbing 9.2 rebounds per game.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Griffin — He had knee surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus on March 2 but played against Missouri just a week later. He will surely be playing in the Sooners’ first game of the tournament Friday , but the injured knee could cause some problems.

No. 5 BAYLOR 21-9 (9-7)

The Bears were a surprising team that began the season 16-2. They then lost six of their next seven games before rebounding to close out the season by winning four of five.

The Bears are matched up against Colorado and won their previous meeting 68-57 in Boulder, Colo. The Bears have a deep batch of guards. Aaron Bruce, a senior guard and Baylor’s seventh-leading career scorer, has been coming off the bench in the past six games.

KEY PLAYER: Curtis Jerrells — The junior guard was an All-Big 12 First Team selection and leads Baylor with 14.8 points per game.

KEEP AN EYE ON: LaceDarius Dunn — The freshman guard hasn’t made a start this season but is still second to Jerrells on the team with 13.3 points per game. He also shoots 43 percent from beyond the arc.

No. 6 TEXAS A&M 22-9 (8-8)

The Aggies are built around post play and rebounding. They are 18th in the nation with 39.6 rebounds per game. Texas A&M has a very balanced attack with six players scoring over eight points per game.

The Aggies beat Iowa State 69-51 in the their meeting in Ames, Iowa, this year.

KEY PLAYER: Josh Carter — The junior leads the Aggies with 12.5 points per game and shoots 38.2 percent from 3-point range.

KEEP AN EYE ON: DeAndre Jordan — The 7-foot center was selected to the Big 12 All-Rookie Team because of his 8.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.

No. 7 NEBRASKA 18-11 (7-9)

The Cornhuskers split their regular-season series with Missouri, winning in Columbia and losing in Lincoln, Neb.

KEY PLAYER: Aleks Maric — The All-Big 12 Second Team selection averages a double-double with 16 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. He is the only Nebraska player to average more than 10 points per game.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Ryan Anderson — The sophomore guard recorded his only double-doubles of the season in the two games against the Tigers.

No. 8 TEXAS TECH 16-14 (7-9)

The Red Raiders are fourth in the conference in free-throw and 3-point percentage and split their two games with Oklahoma State.

They have impressive victories over Texas, Kansas State and Texas A&M this year.

KEY PLAYER: Martin Zeno — The All-Big 12 Second Team selection led Texas Tech with 16.3 points per game, but scored just a combined 20 in the two games against the Cowboys.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Alan Voskuil — The junior guard shot 49.2 percent from 3-point range this year, which led the Big 12.

No. 9 OKLAHOMA STATE 16-14 (7-9)

The Cowboys have been streaky this year. They went 2-7 to start Big 12 play, then won five games in a row, but have lost their final two coming into this tournament.

Senior Marcus Dove was named the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year. Last year he shared the award with Kansas’ Mario Chalmers. He will probably have the job of covering Zeno.

KEY PLAYER: Byron Eaton — When the junior guard got hot, the Cowboys went on their five game run, which included wins over Baylor, Texas A&M and Kansas.

KEEP AN EYE ON: James Anderson — The freshman led Oklahoma State in scoring with 13.4 points per game. He has the size of a typical NBA guard at 6 feet, 6 inches tall and has the perimeter skills to match.

No. 10 MISSOURI 16-15 (6-10)

The Tigers have been up and down this season. They have wins over Texas, Kansas State and Maryland but losses to Nebraska, Iowa State and Illinois.

KEY PLAYER: Leo Lyons — The junior forward has been playing his best basketball down the stretch, averaging 21.5 points and 12.8 rebounds in Missouri’s last four games.

KEEP AN EYE ON: DeMarre Carroll — He has been battling a high ankle sprain for most of the Big 12 season but has seemed to recover from the injury. The Big 12 Newcomer of the Year averaged 20.3 points and 6.7 rebounds over Missouri’s last three games.

No. 11 IOWA STATE 14-17 (4-12)

The Cyclones are led by a talented front court that features center Jiri Hubalek and forward Craig Brackins.

Wesley Johnson, the team’s second leading scorer, is also listed as a forward but has played on the perimeter for most of the year to make room for forward Rahshon Clark, who was selected to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team.

KEY PLAYER: Hubalek — The All-Big 12 Third Team pick led Iowa State with 12.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. At 6 feet, 11 inches tall, he will play an important role in trying to keep the Aggies off the glass.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Brackins — The 6-foot-10 forward has shown he can take opponents out to the perimeter at times this year. In the Cyclones’ game against Baylor, he sank 8-of-10 3-pointers and scored 33 points.

No. 12 COLORADO 11-19 (3-13)

Senior guards Richard Roby and Marcus Hall combined to score 48.8 percent of the Buffaloes points this year. Colorado plays a very deliberate style on offense and will try to slow down Baylor.

KEY PLAYER: Roby — The All-Big 12 Third Team selection is third on the Buffaloes’ career scoring list. He needs just two points to move into second place and 57 to take the lead.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Marcus King-Stockton — Senior forward was tied for third in the Big 12 in blocked shots during conference play with 1.63 per game. He had four blocks in games against Missouri and Iowa State.

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